Investing in Women After You:: Why I Feel Called to Mentor Teenagers

…Fast forward several communities and groups later and here I sit, the tentative leader of a high school girls group. Teenagers, you may gasp. Yep, teenagers. Some of which have been on this journey with me since sixth grade. I consistently remind them that I am not their primary go-to. They all have wonderfully adoring parents who pour into them and love them like no other. But for me? I get to have a unique place in their world.

Investing in Women After You:: Why I Feel Called to Mentor Teenagers | Houston Moms BlogI waited a long time to be a “mom.” All of my close friends had kids. My baby sister beat me {twice}. And as a member of a “young couples” Bible study, I became a master at figuring out meal train ideas and bought baby shower gifts in bulk. But try as we might, we did not become parents ourselves. I have taken great pride in my auntie role and being {at times} over-invested in the lives of our friends’ children. And at this juncture, as we navigate foster parenting for the first time, I am grateful for the pretrial run.

However, before I ever had minions clinging to my skirt or making sugar-coated demands, I had an entire crop of lovelies that called me “mom.” My girls.

Words Have Power

Investing in Women After You:: Why I Feel Called to Mentor Teenagers | Houston Moms BlogI can’t pinpoint when it started. I can remember being a high schooler in our Baptist youth group and intentionally pulling younger saplings into my orchard. Finding those teetering at the edge peering in, praying for someone to extend an invitation into the fold. Not long ago, one of those dears sent me a picture of a postcard I sent her while she was on a mission trip in 2001::

I’m proud to know you. Have an awesome time and let God grow you. I love you. I’m praying for you.

What compels someone to keep something for almost two decades with no connection to a relative or milestone event? Words my friend. Words are extremely powerful and have the power to elevate, empower, and otherwise alter someone’s mentality. At that time I was in college {aging myself, it’s fine}, had moved away from our sleepy town, and had no idea that this sweet soul had saved my scrawl that likely took under five minutes. But, to her, it was a reminder that someone cared. Someone was invested in her life, her future.

Be a Cheerleader

I have a free pass to take them out for snow cones and attend concerts and cheer for games and be utterly obnoxious—without getting yelled at. They still roll their eyes and tell me I’m crazy {let’s face it, they aren’t wrong} but they grin from ear-to-ear and because I’m not their parent, they don’t have to pretend like they aren’t excited that I’m there. I sit in the front row next to their beaming parents and holler ‘til my lungs give out. I wave my arms, dab at tears, and save programs in a keepsake box just like any other sap. Just like a mom. They know if they ask, I’ll be there. Every time. Even if they ask at 5 p.m. while I’m on the Metro riding home and the event starts at 7. {Ahem, you know who you are.}

Teenagers are Looking to Us

Investing in Women After You:: Why I Feel Called to Mentor Teenagers | Houston Moms BlogAs these teenagers meet weekly in our home and pour out their hearts and into each other, my heart breaks and swells simultaneously. I listen to their struggles, the highs, hurts, joys, and truly scary parts of adolescence. Geez, they’re just kids, I think to myself. But they aren’t, are they? Many students I encounter through student ministry have already seen loss, heartache, suicide, violence, trauma, isolation, depression…and the list goes on. If not in themselves or their own family, in the lives of someone close to them, someone they love. Then these teenagers turn to me. What do you think? Sometimes, I have no words and more often than not, that’s not what they’re really looking for anyway. The tears I have shed over these girls is immeasurable. And I’d do it all again and again.

The courage I have seen these ladies show is incredible. They are not afraid to be vulnerable and to seek solace in each other {something I’m not sure I’ve even mastered}. However, they are still looking to us, the ones who have gone before, to help them navigate these incredibly difficult paths.

How then could we turn our backs on this generation? Knowing that the world has murky corners and wolves hidden behind cloaks of promises, can we refuse to extend a hand and offer to pull them through with us? I never pretend for a moment that I have all the answers, but they know I’m a safe harbor and an anti-critical sounding board. Our motto is, “This is a judgment-free zone.”

Who’s in Your Circle?

Teenagers are not the only ones benefitting from this mentorship. These girls taught {and continue to teach} me a thing or two about mama love. They showed me what it looked like to cram aikido, a dance recital, and a celebratory dinner all into one day. I learned your heart and energy have no bounds when you get a message that says, “I really need to talk. Are you free?” Yes, ma’am. Absolutely. I know from across a room if one of them has spotted me because I can hear the unmistakable shriek of my name. And Lord help me, I love those girls with every ounce I have to give them.

Somewhere along the way, I was given some sage advice:: Always look to a woman who has gone before you and make sure you are investing in a woman coming after you.

No matter where you are in this life or where you come from, there is someone ahead and someone behind. So whether you are 16-year-old with elementary students idolizing your every move or a 40-something who knows a thing or two, just remember, someone is watching. Someone could learn from you. And more than that, a woman in your circle needs to hear from you {yes you} that a human outside of her immediate circle finds value in her. That they see her. Find her. Tell her.


 

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